Shortage in vaccine that helps the sick

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A DOCTOR’s message to people is “don’t panic” – despite a rising levels of flu and shortages in the vaccine to cure it.

NHS Hertfordshire has said supplies are low in some areas – but refused to say which are worst hit.

Heather Gray, head of pharmacy and medicines management, said: “We have identified those practices whose stocks are low. We are helping them obtain supplies from other practices.”

The campaign against seasonal flu usually starts in October – but this year its advertising was cancelled by the coalition government to save money.

GPs have been writing to people over 65 or in at-risk groups – such as pregnant women and sufferers of asthma, heart disease and bronchitis. They are encouraged to get the trivalent seasonal flu jab.

GP Tony Hall said The New Surgery in Church Yard, Tring, where he works, has enough flu vaccines for his patients.

He said: “Patients – please, do not panic. If you cannot get the flu vaccine, you can get tamiflu.”

Tamiflu must be taken within 48 hours of catching the flu – but can alleviate symptoms that would get much worse.

The tell-tale signs of flu are a high fever, sore head, aching muscles, coughing and sneezing while eating or being in contact with someone else who has it.

Ms Gray said GPs with insufficient supplies of flu vaccine can offer at-risk patients the vaccine for the H1N1 swine flu strain.

She said: “H1N1 is causing the vast majority of serious complications that a few patients are experiencing.”

The Gazette reported last week that 26-year-old Caroline Benoist, animal trainer for the Harry Potter movies, is suspected to have died from swine flu.

But Mr Hall said: “Normal healthy people who catch swine flu are unlikely to die from it.”